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QR Codes Drive Customer Engagement

First there was the Smart Phone…. Then there was mobile messaging…. mobile coupons …. mobile loyalty program apps.  What’s the next mobile marketing trend?  It may very well be QR Codes.

Short for “quick response,” a QR code links online content to a mobile device. The barcode type graphic can hold up to 7,000 characters in a compact space. The consumer simply scans the code (using a QR Reader app on their smartphone) and is redirected to content that the creator of the code has developed.

While QR codes have been around for a while (they were created by Toyota subsidiary Denso-Wave in 1994), they are increasing in popularity.

  •   Mobio reports that during July to December of 2010, QR code scanning grew a whopping 1,200%; 89% of QR codes link to more information about a product, promotion, or event; 6% of QR codes are for mobile payment.
  •   According to a February 2011 survey of U.S. smartphone users by MGH, a Baltimore social media marketing company, 32% of respondents said they have scanned a QR code. Of those, 53% said they used the code to get a coupon or discount. And 72% said they were more likely to remember an advertisement with a QR code.

With today’s consumers being flooded with more than 5,000 marketing messages daily, being able to transform what may have been a 3-second interaction with an ad, text or other marketing message into a rich, proactive, permission-based interaction with the brand that could last a couple of minutes is powerful. Especially since we know that engagement is the first—- and very critical—- step of driving long-term customer loyalty.

Many marketers are experimenting with QR codes and making them part of existing marketing creative strategies. Just pick up a magazine and chances are you’ll see several ads that include QR codes. Several pioneering brands, however, are diving in deep enough to determine how best to use QR codes to engage with mobile customers. 

A trip down the cereal aisle will highlight one of these early-adopter brands. In March, Post Foods partnered with Jesta Digital to create and deliver the first original mobile content series, available on Bitbop, the commercial free, on-demand mobile TV service. Beginning in April, more than 12 million Honey Bunches of Oats cereal boxes offered consumers free trials of the Bitbop service, by simply scanning the QR code on the back of the box with their mobile device. Consumers can view the "Honey and Joy" series, set in a Honey Bunches of Oats factory, online at www.Bitbop.com as well as via the mobile application m.bitbop.com.  Says Katie Lay, Brand Manager at Post, in a company statement, "Since they are active users of mobile entertainment, partnering with Jesta Digital's Bitbop initiative lets us give them fun, original content to entertain them wherever they are."

Home Depot also just launched a new QR code initiative in more than 2,200 of its U.S. stores. The campaign uses QR codes to give consumers mobile access to product ratings, reviews, How-To guides, product-specific videos and the online store. In addition to print advertising, Home Depot will include the codes in its direct mail, on the store shelves, on in-store signage and other marketing pieces. The Home Depot can also track which media is providing the most traffic or sales, and then adjust messaging or content as needed based on that data.

"We know our customers are already using their mobile device to assist in the purchasing process, and now Home Depot is embracing this technology to more closely connect our stores and customers to our digital content," Tom Sweeney, senior director of online strategy for Homedepot.com, said in a statement.

According to Insight Express, 82% of consumers are already using mobile phones during their shopping trips. As such, it’s important for marketers to understand how to incorporate QR codes into the in-store shopping experience. Shoppers want more information about the products they buy. Linking to online content to deliver this information is the core of what QR Codes are all about.

A great example of this is Best Buy. Last year, they added QR codes to the fact tags in all of their U.S. retail stores, making them the first national retailer in the US to embrace their shoppers’ desire to use mobile devices during their shopping trips. Customer can use the QR Reader on their smartphones to get detailed information about the product they are considering. They can read consumer reviews, compare features with similar products and e-mail details to a friend who might be giving advice.

Macy’s is also using QR codes to engage the customer during their shopping experience. The retailer’s Backstage Pass campaign encourages shoppers to scan QR codes included on product displays to access exclusive and engaging video content via their mobile phones. In addition to giving a behind-the-scenes look at collections, the videos offer tips, fashion inspirations and trend information from the retailer’s celebrity designers and fashion authorities so that customers can learn more about the brands/designs as they shop.

Says Martine Reardon, Macy’s executive vice president of Marketing, in a company press release, “By providing fun and informative video features via an easy-to-use, direct-to-consumer platform, we are connecting and engaging our customer in a personal way that enhances and adds a new element to their shopping experience.”

As these examples illustrate, QR codes offer the potential to establish a new form of interaction and dialogue between the consumer and the brand. Armed with their smartphones, customers are eager and excited to make this at-your-fingertips technology work for them in ways that makes their lives easier. QR codes offer an effective way to help them achieve this goal——and engage them in your brand in the process.

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